JOHANNESBURG: The Nelson Mandela Foundation was established in 1999 by former President Nelson Mandela to advance peace, democracy and Human Rights. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees has given it a strong mandate to do work which enables South Africa to reckon with its oppressive pasts. It is for that reason that the Foundation saw it as vital to apply to the Equality Court to have the gratuitous display of the apartheid-era national flag (the Old Flag) declared to be hate speech – our action is in pursuit of the right to human dignity contained in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to foster peace and development in our nascent democracy and to advance the spirit of the Constitution as described in the preamble:
“Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.”
Gratuitous display of the old flag “demeans and dehumanises people on the basis of their race. It impairs their human dignity. The Old Flag is displayed gratuitously with the full knowledge of its current and historical effects and therefore with clear intent to bring its effects upon fellow men and women,” as Justice Phineas Mojapelo put it at paragraph 177 of the judgment.
The Foundation has noted that AfriForum has applied to appeal against the Equality Court’s judgment in this case. We are concerned that, increasingly, access to justice is denied to ordinary South Africans who are themselves not able to protect their rights to human dignity and to live in a society free from hate speech; the commodification of justice should be something that concerns all of us.
The Foundation is resolute that not only will it see the contempt of court application brought against Mr Ernst Roets and Afriforum, which is set down for hearing tomorrow, 3 September 2019, to completion, but that it will continue defending the right of South Africans to live in a society which is free from hate speech and which protects our rights to human dignity. The social cohesion of our country is not dependent on the fragility of those keen on division and contempt for our young democracy.
It is incumbent on all of us who are committed to building the society described in the Constitution to come together and work constructively towards the achievement and realisation of all of the rights in the Bill of Rights. In this work, it is at times necessary to fight against forces who would take us back to the nightmare of the past we fought to come out of.
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